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Taking Matters Into Her Own Hands

In Genesis 13, 14, and 15, Abram demonstrates maturity and spiritual growth. The events in Genesis 16 surprise me because it appears to be a stark contrast to the overflowing trust Abram exhibited over the last few years of his life. Abram obediently departed from his homeland, generously sought peace and gave his nephew the best land, and he just had a heart to heart with God concerning the covenant of his offspring. In chapter 13 we briefly caught a glimpse into Abram and Sarai’s marriage. Here in chapter 16 we get a much more vivid picture of their household, and I dare say that it is against God’s design for them.

As we learned last year in the series of the same name, we learned that God designed Adam to have headship, meaning he is the spiritual leader and guardian of his household. Pastor Matt Chandler explains, “Headship is the unique leadership of the man in the work of establishing order for human flourishing… [It’s] a sacrificial love toward his wife… He also has a charge for spiritual direction.” Although Abram had confidence in God and his faith had been counted as righteousness, his wife was not on the same page. To empathize with Sarai, she is likely burdened with shame over being barren. She probably feels like she has failed as a woman, and cannot bare her husband to be childless any longer, so she fails to trust God by taking matters into her own hands.

In the brief dialogue recorded between Abram and Sarai in Genesis 16:2, Sarai admitted her belief that God prevented her from having children, therefore she suggested Abram take her servant, Hagar, as his wife so through her Abram can finally have a son. However, the verse ends with, “And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.” Here we witness Abram failing at his God-ordained calling to headship. We don’t know if he paused to pray nor do we know anything about his thoughts on the matter, but since he went through with Sarai’s suggestion, he obviously failed to cling to the covenant God has just made with him. This sets in motion a chain of events that ultimately lead to the birth of Ishmael, who becomes the father of a nation that would hate and persecute Jesus.

Just like Abram, we also are prone to forget God’s promises to us. We may mature and display fruit of spiritual growth, but we are all sinful and fall short of God’s glory. Thankfully, God redeems our messes after we take matters into our own hands. Despite Abram and Sarai’s poor decision, God used it for his glory. He knew that eventually his son, Jesus, who would be born to one of Abram and Sarai’s offspring, would overcome all the brokenness caused by sin. Jesus came and was a better Abram and Sarai because his trust in God and obedience never wavered. He ultimately fulfilled the covenant to Abram from the previous chapter, as well as it is mentioned multiple times throughout the narrative of Abraham’s life, which states, “I will bless you . . . so that you will be a blessing . . . and in you shall all the families of the earth be blessed".

Concerning the magnitude of this covenant with Abram and the eternal perspective we must have because of it, John Piper explains, “Therefore, even though God has begun his redemptive, reclaiming process with a single individual, he has in view the world. He has a plan, a clear purpose for the centuries, and it reaches even to us.” Jesus was God’s plan, and when we place our matters into His hands, God’s plans succeed.

“For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.”

Romans 3:25-26 NLT

 

Posted by Laura Rogers with

Abram's Radical Selfishness

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In Genesis 12:10-20, Abram (not yet Abraham) brought his wife to Egypt to obtain food because there was a severe famine in the land. In this infamous episode, Abram tells his wife, Sarai, to tell anyone that asks that she is his sister, because he was afraid that the Egyptians would kill him if they found out that he was her husband. This ended up happening just as he predicted, but God protected Sarai by inflicting Egypt with plagues to prompt Pharaoh to release Sarai. This was a foreshadowing of the Exodus narrative, except for the fact that this Pharaoh was smart enough to let God’s people go.

 What always strikes me about this story is the radical selfishness of Abram. Yes, this man is the father of the faithful. This man left his family, life, and everything he had ever known and went to Canaan in obedience to the word of God. Yet, in the very same chapter, we see this example of Abram’s selfishness and cowardice. Rather than protecting his bride, Abram decided to save his own skin. Rather than relying on God to protect and bless him and his wife, Abram relied on his own cleverness. There is really only one word to describe Abram’s actions in this narrative: selfish.

 Chapter 13 is quite different. Abram’s behavior in chapter 13 is a direct contrast to his behavior in chapter 12. In chapter 13, we are told that Abram was very rich. He was dwelling with his flocks, and with his nephew Lot. However, there was conflict between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s because there was not enough room in the land for both of them. Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you?” (Genesis 13:8-9) Rather than putting his family in harm’s way to look out for his own self-interest as he did in chapter 12, Abram defers to his nephew Lot by giving him the choice of the land to end the conflict. In this culture, the younger would submit to the older. Also, God promised Abram this land, not Lot. Nevertheless, Abram offered Lot his pick of the land, trusting that God would fulfill His promises to Him no matter what. Abram’s behavior is absolutely selfless.

 Chapter 12:10-20 teaches us that, even though Abram acted in faith toward God by following Him to Canaan, he was still a sinner that acted in selfishness. Chapter 13, however, teaches us that God was working in Abram to make him less selfish and more concerned about the interests of others. This doesn’t mean Abram is perfect from this point on. As we will see in our study of Abram, he will repeat this same mistake again in Genesis 20. It means that, now that Abram has trusted in God and followed Him, God is now working within him to make him more like Himself. More selfless. More giving.

 In this way, Abram is a model for us. We should be quick to defer to others, and consider them more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). However, Abram also points forward to an ever greater example for us: the One who, in the ultimate act of condescension, considered all of His people as more significant than Himself, and humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8). Rather than clinging tightly to our rights and freedoms, let us lay them down to serve others. Let us, like our Lord, be willing to lay down our interests for the sake of others.

           

Posted by Nate Weis with

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